Bomb reportedly blows up $500,000 Mercedes of billionaire seen as Abbas rival

TV report says N. Carolina-based pharma tycoon Adnan Mjalli was not in the car at the time; move seen as a warning to him not to enter race to succeed elderly Palestinian leader

US-based Palestinian billionaire Adnan Mjalli (Courtesy/Facebook)
US-based Palestinian billionaire Adnan Mjalli (Courtesy/Facebook)

A bomb reportedly detonated recently next to the luxury car of US-based Palestinian pharma billionaire Adnan Mjalli,  Israel’s Channel 13 news reported Wednesday, saying the move was seen as a warning to him to stay out of a race to succeed the 83-year-old Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

Mjalli was not in the vehicle at the time of the incident, that reportedly occurred in the northern West Bank town of Tubas some two months ago. The report showed pictures of the charred interior of the vehicle, which it said was a privately imported Mercedes valued at $500,000.

The report also said that Mjalli’s bank accounts in Ramallah had been frozen.

Mjalli, who heads several international pharmaceutical companies, has in the past served as an adviser to the Trump administration on the Palestinian economy and reportedly operated a back-channel between the White House and Abbas’s Muqata’a headquarters in Ramallah.

An image showing the charred interior of a luxury car belonging to Adnan Mjalli that was reportedly bombed (Screenshot/Channel 13 news)

However, he has also been recently touted as a  possible new PA prime minister or even a successor to Abbas, who has been in poor health and has no definite heir.

The TV report said that warnings had also been sent to two other prominent Palestinians, former prime minister Salam Fayyad and Jibril Rajoub, the head of the Palestinian Football Association, telling them to stay out of the succession battle.

No details on the type or content of those warnings were provided and the report did not have comment from Abbas, or the Palestinian Authority, on the intimation that Abbas, or his supporters, were behind the blast.

The TV report said that Abbas had decided that only two senior Palestinian officials should be considered when he eventually retires or dies: Palestinian security chief Majed Faraj and Nablus Governor Mahmoud al-Aloul.

The report comes the same day as an Israeli news outlet reported that a specialist doctor provided by Israel helped save the life of Abbas last year.

Abbas was hospitalized at Ramallah’s Istishari Arab Hospital in May 2018, with a severe ear infection that rapidly developed into pneumonia and other complications, placing Abbas for a time in a life-threatening situation, according to a Ynet news site report that did not name its source.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas shown recovering in a hospital on May 22, 2018, reading a newspaper. (Wafa news agency)

Fearful for his life, and for the stability of the PA if he were to die, Israeli officials quietly offered to hospitalize Abbas at an Israeli hospital, which has more advanced care possibilities than Palestinian hospitals, the report said. Abbas declined the offer.

Aloul is said to be Abbas’s preferred successor. He was elected two years ago as deputy chairman of Abbas’s Fatah party, which dominates the PA and it security forces.

Last year, Abbas reportedly told members of the Fatah Revolutionary Council that Aloul was his candidate to succeed him as chairman of Fatah. The council is the second key decision-making body after the Fatah Central Committee.

Mahmoud al-Aloul, member of the Central Committee of Fatah. (Issam Rimawi/Flash90)

If Abbas is incapacitated, Palestinian sources say Aloul is expected to serve as acting chairman of Fatah until its representatives elect a new leader.

If elected, Aloul, who belongs to the old guard of the Palestinian leadership, is expected to pursue the same policies of his predecessor.

One reason Abbas reportedly prefers Aloul to other candidates was that he shares the PA chief’s strategy according to which the Palestinians should stick to “popular resistance,” and not an “armed struggle,” against Israel.

Faraj, the head of the security services, is also considered a top candidate. He is less of a public figure, operating mainly in the background, but he has been a key conduit to both Israel and the US.

What is virtually certain is that Abbas’s successor will not be chosen through an open presidential election, but by Fatah and PLO officials in Ramallah: The continued rivalry between Fatah and Hamas has made open elections in the West Bank and Gaza Strip an unlikely prospect.

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